The Wayward West

  Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has a new name for his proposed protected areas: National Landscape Monuments (HCN, 12/20/99: The Wayward West). Landscape monuments run by the Bureau of Land Management would lack the tourist amenities of national monuments, and mining would be prohibited. But not everyone is convinced that the BLM is the right agency for the job. "I do have a fundamental concern that BLM doesn't now have the management policies and staffing and culture to manage these more sensitive lands," Tom Kiernan of the National Parks Conservation Association told the LA Times.

Over 52 percent of residents in Arizona's Pima County suffer breathing and vision problems caused by Phoenix's air pollution (HCN, 12/20/99: Desert development raises dust). While the percentage of sufferers climbed five points from last year, the State Department of Environmental Quality blames a dry and windy winter. The air is actually cleaner now, says the DEQ.

Once again, Colorado's Animas-La Plata project has some locals furious. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., is sponsoring a bill that approves a new version of the dam proposal near Durango: a bigger reservoir with a bigger price tag than "A-LP Ultra Lite" (HCN, 3/20/95: One project seems like the same old BuRec). "This has drawn broad-based support from all sorts of political groups, including the Clinton administration," says Josh Penry of McInnis' office. Critics say the bill would sidestep environmental laws and limit public input. "I thought our congressman was supposed to listen to our concerns, not introduce a bill to shut us up," says Mike Black of Taxpayers for the Animas River.

Oscar Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas, has an alternative to storing the nation's nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. "Why doesn't this go to a Third World country?" he asked the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He said poor countries would welcome the money, and added that the American military could keep an eye on things. The Senate recently passed a bill that would permanently store the waste at Yucca Mountain; President Clinton is expected to veto it (HCN, 6/7/99: The Wayward West).

Rep. Jack Metcalf, R-Wash., and animal-rights groups have gone to federal court to appeal the Makah Tribe's right to kill gray whales (HCN, 9/28/98: Hunt sparks whale of a controversy). They say the government approved the hunt without considering risks to sea kayakers and whale watchers. U.S. District Judge Andrew Kleinfeld scoffed: "What is the risk that a whale will act like Moby Dick?" he told The Seattle Times. A decision is pending.

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